x
  • Country ranking ?

    566
  • Producer ranking ?

    34
  • Decanting time

    15min
  • When to drink

    now to 2030
  • Food Pairing

    Sushi

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The Story

In 1876 when Tsar Alexander II requested that a special cuvée be created for his court Roederer duly obliged, creating what many regard to be the first prestige cuvée. 

As the political situation in Russia was somewhat unstable, Tsar Alexander feared assassination. He ordered that Champagne bottles be made of clear glass, so that he could see the bubbles and to prevent anyone from hiding a bomb within, as could easily happen with a typical dark green bottle. Roederer commissioned a Flemish glassmaker to create clear lead crystal Champagne bottles with a flat bottom. 

Originally a sweet blend, the Champagne was named “Cristal” after these distinctive clear lead crystal glass bottles.

In 1909, the House of Louis Roederer was regarded as the “Official Purveyor of Champagne to the Imperial Court of Russia” – a business coup that was later reversed following the deposition of the Tsar during the 1917 Revolution. Prohibition in the US caused additional financial difficulties during the early 20th century. However, the house survived these setbacks and today Louis Roederer remains an independent, family-owned business, managed by Roederer’s descendant, Frédéric Rouzaud.

The composition of Cristal is approximately 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. The grapes used in the wine come from only the finest vineyards in Grand Cru villages. Lecaillon talks about the crucial role that vineyards play in quality:

“A majority of our most recent development has been in vineyard operations. We have strict limits set for crop yields and we're using vines that are 25 years old on average. We evaluate the grapes coming from our own vineyards very critically. We try to improve the vineyards that aren't performing well and keep the ones that are at the highest level of quality.

The grapes from our own vineyards produce wines with an alcohol content that’s an average of 1% higher than those produced with purchased grapes. There’s less tart malic acid in our own grapes. Even though we strive for the highest possible acidity, it’s absolutely necessary that this is accompanied by a ripe fruitiness. We belong to the five-percent minority of Champagne's producers who do not use malolactic fermentation to reduce wine acidity. The range of aromas is accentuated by the high-acid structure, much in the same way a salad dressing brings out the aromas in the food.

“And we stopped using cloned vines - we're only using the vine offspring from our own vineyards to ensure natural diversity. In the 1950s, -60s and -70s cloning was far too simple a solution for such a complex thing." Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon explained

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Wine Information

In 1876, a Roederer champagne made for Russia’s Tsar Alexander II became the world’s first luxury cuvée. But with the sudden collapse of the Russian market, the champagne house endured a long struggle on the verge of bankruptcy. Eventually, the family’s shrewd patriarchs managed to turn things around, and today, Roederer is the most solvent of Champagne’s houses; indeed, its future looks Cristal clear.
Roederer is one of the few top champagne houses to remain family-owned. Although the house’s history actually begins in 1776, the company was not called Roederer until 1833, when Louis Roederer inherited the business from his uncle. It was Louis Roederer himself who increased the house’s production volume to its present level, 2.5 million bottles a year. He laid the foundation for exports and, particularly in Russia, enjoyed great success.
Louis Roederer II, his son, receives the credit for developing Cristal. The Russian Tsar was absolutely taken with Roederer champagne: in 1873, some 666,386 bottles, which amounted to approximately 27% of its entire production, were delivered to the court of Alexander II. In order to formalise Roederer’s status as official purveyor to the Imperial Court of Russia, Alexander II commissioned Louis Roederer to produce a very sweet, prestige blend packaged in a real crystal glass bottle. Roederer’s Martine Charlotte Lorson told us:
”The first luxury cuvée was born. From the very beginning, the bottle was clear and flat-bottomed. We later patented the bottle’s design. We have tried to change from the flat-bottomed bottle, but we can’t. Because of and thanks to the patent, Cristal’s label and appearance have stayed the same since 1928!”
And how fortunate that is, because, at least in our opinion, it is quite possibly the most beautiful wine bottle in the world, especially when wrapped in its trademark amber cellophane. Chef de Cave Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon explained the practicalities:
”We started using cellophane in the late 1970s, and there were still bottles with and without cellophane available in the early 1980s. Champagne is a light-sensitive product, so even though the cellophane is beautiful, it also plays a key role in protecting the Cristal from ultraviolet radiation. The amber cellophane also makes the bottle instantly recognisable, thus serving as a brand-building tool.”
The story of Cristal’s genuine crystal bottle is well-known. This is why we were surprised to discover that there is not one true crystal bottle in existence or even a photograph of one.
”Unfortunately, that’s true”, says Lorson, and continues: ”We’ve been searching high and low without any luck. But then again, Cristal was only packaged in crystal bottles for one or two years. The bottle was too weak to withstand the pressure and, because the Tsar’s champagne was so sweet, there was some post-fermentation, and the resulting losses were too much even for the extravagant Tsar.”

The 1970s were a turning point of sorts for Roederer and Cristal. Camille Olry-Roederer’s grandson Jean-Claude Rouzaud joined the house and gradually took the helm. It was a rough start, as TCA, a chemical compound that causes cork taint, infested the Roederer cellars. The young man faced an enormous undertaking. A huge volume of wine had to be taken off the market and disposed of, and the entire production facility had to be sterilised and rebuilt.
This is also the period of Cristal’s emerging popularity, when Roederer worked with an American importer to make Cristal the world’s most in-demand champagne. A key detail of this plan was to double the price. When Rouzaud was named Decanter Man of the Year in 2001, he said in an interview that one of the most significant things he had done at Roederer was to decrease the production of Cristal from one third to under a fifth of Roederer’s overall production. High price and low availability - alongside uncompromised quality - have made Cristal the most coveted champagne in the world.

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Vintage 1988

CHAMPAGNE: From this year, the most classic and refined champagnes were producedChampagnes are long-lived and mature slowly to their peak.

Winter and spring were fairly mild. Inflorescences began in good weather in June. Already during the next month, the cloud masses swarmed to the Champagne province. Finally, the sky broke right before harvest. The harvest remained smaller than in the previous year. Even though the weather was unstable, the vintage produced fine and elegant wines, of which many have just reached their peak. The wines are marked by high acids and a concentrated, precise style. A real classic vintage. There is no rush to enjoy these wines, as they endure storage well and will continue to develop well for the next 10–12 years. Indicative of a slowly maturing vintage is that Krug released to the market first the Clos du Mesnil 1989 vintage before the 1988 vintage. This year has also stayed in mind as the vintage when Jacquesson & Fils produced the first of its three late bottled special cuvées – the Jacquesson DT (Dégorgement Tardif).

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Latest Pro-tasting notes

31 tasting notes

Tasting note

color

Medium, Amber and Bright

ending

Medium, Gentle and Spicy

flavors

Raspberry, Plum, Waxy, Truffles, Nutty and Caramel

nose

Complex, Opulent, Generous and Intense

recommend

Yes

taste

Average in Acidity, Balanced, Concentrated, Well-structured, Mature, Medium-bodied and Dry

Written Notes

Roederer blends its prestigious Cristal from 60-65 base wines based on blind tasting only. 55% of the blend comprises of Pinot Noir and the remaining part is reserved for Grand Cru Chardonnay. Cristal’s splendour originates in the vineyards as Roederer still owns a lion’s share of the vineyards that produce Cristal. 25+ year old vines from own parcels produce base wine of 1 degree more potential alcohol compared to the purchased grapes. One of Cristal’s secrets is in its non-maloed nature. Roederer seeks the highest possible acidity, which combines to create a perfectly ripe fruitiness.
                                 The 1988 vintage started the 3-year consecutive span of great vintages. Classical year of powerful and fruity wines, whose acidity makes them very fine and long-lived. As Cristal is a true vin de garde, this magnificent 1988 is still waiting to reach its full potential.                 
                                 Developed deep colour with beige tinge and a hint of cloudiness. Ripe delicious nose with honey, raisins, orange marmalade. Fruit-driven, nutty and citrus nose with layers and layers showing after some time in the glass. Some development especially in the nose but the palate remains slightly restrained but packed with future potential. Razor-sharp acidic spine brings elegance and a feeling of lightness to this very concentrated wine with amazing length and depth. The wine is just approaching its prime drinking age, but could definitely benefit from a long bottle-ripening.

  • 97p
Roeder's Cristal belongs to the elite of prestige Champagnes. It combines Bollinger's and Krug's heavy, nutty, Pinot-inspired style, with Taittinger Comtes de Champagne's enjoyably exotic fruitiness and butter-caramel taste. The only comment I have is that the vintages can be rather uneven and that the dosage tends to be a little too high for my taste. The '88 is young and classic with a rich fruit, nascent nuttiness, and great depth. Even this wine has developed in an amazing way and is now a world-class experience.
  • 95p
We started with a mag of 1988 Louis Roederer Cristal, served out of a white wine glass, which this collector considers mandatory for any Champagne 1990 and older. The reasoning is to allow the complexities that come with age to aerate and open up as one would with a wine, and it makes complete sense to me. Champagne is, after all, sparkling wine! The nose was creamy and musky with nice buttery, yellow fruits, sweet and with touches of corn and rye yeast. The palate was round and fleshy, with nice sprite, very expressive and open at the moment. There were dry seltzer flavors, and while ’88 is a middleweight vintage for Champagne, the Cristal still showed like a champ despite a lighter impression on the mid-palate.
  • 94p

One of the two or three most moving wines in this vertical, the 1988 Cristal is eternal. Deep and vertical, with Gothic spires of soaring aromatic, flavor and structural intensity, the 1988 has it all. At thirty years of age, the 1988 is fresh, vibrant and incredibly powerful. Lemon peel, white flower, chalk and almonds are all given an extra kick of vibrancy from the bright acids and underlying energy of the vintage. Even after three decades, the 1988 remains searing, classically austere and beautifully focused, with tremendous pedigree and stunning balance. The 1988 is a rare Cristal where the Chardonnay, at 48% of the blend, is on the higher side. “When I joined Roederer in 1989, we were blending the 1988s,” Lécaillon explains. “They were such hard wines to work with because the acidities were so high. My teeth suffered. I thought ‘am I going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life? Maybe I should change jobs?’” Luckily, he did not. “In 1988, flowering was very bad for the Chardonnay. Yields were quite low and flavors were super-intense and concentrated. This, to me, is one of the keys for making great Champagne with real dimension. Interestingly, the same is not true of Pinot Noir. Keep a glass of the 1988 to compare with the 2008 later. In my opinion, 2008 is the new 1988.”

  • 98p
With 46% Chardonnay, this is the highest ever volume of Chardonnay used in Cristal. Oak fermentation was applied to 11% of the wine. A slightly deeper colour than previous wines, with a persistent bead. Ah! This is the first of the wines to show real development on the nose. Very aromatic, with a toasty, brioche character, caramel and white chocolate flavours, and a fresher floral note in the background. A big mouthful, too, with concentration like the 1999. The finish is rich and long, with the characteristic clean acidity. The low pH – as low as 1996 – was an early sign of aging potential, and there’s plenty of life in this yet. Very good, a crowd pleaser, though not as fine as the 1990. Frédéric Rouzaud nominated this as his favourite wine of the tasting. A generous Cristal, with plenty of stuffing to match the strong acidity.
  • 93p
Magnum
  • 96p
Oxidized bottle unfortunately. One of the only Cristal with dominance of Chardinnay with 52% (Pinot Noir 48%) Very much like 2013 vintage
  • 90p
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Information

Origin

Reims, Champagne

Vintage Quality

Excellent

Value For Money

Very good

Investment potential

Below Average

Fake factory

None

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users. or to see wine moments from your world.

96p
 Edward Cuvée, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Cristal 1988  ( Louis Roederer )

"One of the best tastings ever. Cristal 88 rosé "

10y 7m ago

94p
 Emma Kaukoranta, Pro (Finland)  tasted  Cristal 1988  ( Louis Roederer )

"We like :)"

10y 7m ago

96p
 Essi Avellan MW , Wine Writer (Finland)  tasted  Cristal 1988  ( Louis Roederer )

"Delicious tasting of 1988. Just got to love the vintage! Go Crissie Rosé!"

10y 7m ago

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